Counselling Family Infertility

Cover Story: Inconceivable


Most people would agree that the natural order of a family is – marriage, have children, raise them, weather the storms and challenges on the way, watch them grow and build lives of their own. So what happens when this natural order is thrown off balance? What happens when you’re stuck right at the second step because of no fault of your own? Your body is not capable of bearing a child.

No one expects to not have a baby. It is not something you consider if you are a relatively healthy person and want to have a child. It is always a shock to anyone who hears that they cannot become parents like they hoped. Added to that is the pressure from those around you. The question ‘any good news?’ is something that everyone can relate to. What does one do in this situation? What is the future that you look forward to? How do you grieve for something that you didn’t or can’t have?

It is no longer the decision that you thought you needed to make like, is our insurance adequate to cover the costs for the delivery? Do we need a bigger house? Where should we send our child to school? Another set of questions emerge: Why not me? What options are there for a couple who can’t conceive? When is it time to give up and when should we look for other alternatives? In this article, we bring you three real stories of people who have been faced with the grief of infertility and their journey. Read these stories and different reactions to ‘inconceivable’ carefully and listen to their heart’s cry.

Longing – Sonia’s Story
I had always dreamed about the moment that I would find out that I’m pregnant; I would take a home pregnancy test, show the positive test to my husband and tell him that he was going to be a father. I would bask in the love and care that everyone would shower on me. I had it all planned out – when we would try, what I needed to do before we tried, when we should try for the second one. It was all set! 3 years later, here I am, lying in an operation theatre, screaming in pain…no not because I am in labour for my second child (as per my master plan) – but for the doctor to take measurements of my uterus to see if it will be able to hold an embryo for an IVF procedure.

As I lay there I almost wanted to laugh! So much for those dreams and plans! There was not going to be any happy surprise, no tears of joy. No, it was going to be endless hormone injections, egg extractions, in- vitro fertilisation and implantation. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well actually I did get to be surprised and filled with joy and discover that I was pregnant only to have a miscarriage. It took me a long time to come to terms with it.

It was strange to mourn the death of someone you never knew. People with all good intentions told me “it’s ok, you can try again”. I would just listen but I was so angry. How could they say that to me? It was like telling me “your husband died but it’s ok, you can get married again”! At times I felt I was going crazy being so depressed about something that everyone trivialized so easily. But with a lot of prayer and support from my husband I was able to deal with the loss and over time wounds healed.

I still think about the baby that I lost and calculate how old he/she would be now but like any loss I learnt to move on. When the timing was ‘right’ we began trying but nothing happened. Every month I would be so excited because I would imagine all the pregnancy symptoms and I’d be so sure that I was. I could not relate to any of my friends anymore because all they talked about was their child/pregnancy.

It hurt when they talked about the changes that they were feeling, the kicks and even the nausea! It was not jealousy. My longing and sorrow just got amplified at those times. I was really happy for them – it was just that I was also more sad for myself at those times. I could never tell anyone about it because I thought they would think I was just selfish and self- centred. People honestly do have the best of intentions but are at a complete loss at what to say to someone who is going through the sorrow of infertility.

The one thing that everyone needs to understand first and foremost is – ‘relaxing does not cure infertility.’ The number of people that told me to ‘relax’ and that it would ‘just happen’ made me want to tear my hair out. ‘Just don’t think about it’ was followed by stories of people who did that and just got pregnant. Everyone had a solution. A friend of mine called me one day to say how depressed she was that she was pregnant ‘again’, it was such bad timing and that she wanted to have an abortion.

I wept for 2 days after that. How could God grant a child to someone like that and not to me when I was craving one for so long? It was so unfair! Every possible test and procedure and treatment later, here I am at the last option available – IVF. I don’t know if this will work and I have learnt through all this that it is not in my hands. I cannot control it, I may plan and plan but it is not up to me. It may be the most advanced procedure but it does not guarantee a child.

Only the One who formed me can form a child in my womb. It is not a difficult task for God to do. If He isn’t doing it for me I’m sure He has a really good reason. My hope and prayer is that I understand His purpose for me and I am able to do with my life as He wills. At the end of the day I have faith that God has brought me to it and God will take me through it.

Not in my hands – Leena’s Story
As I change my fifth dirty nappy for the day, I have to smile to myself. How life has changed! My husband and I are in our early thirties and just 2 months ago, we welcomed our first child, a little boy into the world. Our journey to pregnancy was a long one, nearly 3 years and we really didn’t know if we would ever have a baby. We thought and prayed long and hard about when we wanted to start a family.

The funny thing is that at that stage we were so focussed on the ‘perfect time’ to have a baby; little did we know that we really didn’t control anything! After 6 months of fertility treatment, I was thrilled to find out that I was pregnant. Sadly, I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks. I couldn’t believe that after waiting so long, this had happened to me. I felt cheated. Hadn’t I been through enough? As hard as it was, and this might sound odd the experience actually gave me hope because I realised that I could get pregnant.

Through all of this I prayed a lot and both my husband and I felt that we were on a journey that we were supposed to be on. We didn’t know why, but we trusted and had faith that whatever came, we would have the strength to cope. For the next year we continued on medication but we weren’t ready to take any further steps to assisted methods yet. In the meantime we made a real decision to keep living our lives to the fullest.

We were blessed with wonderful friends and family and good health and we didn’t want to just focus on the one thing we didn’t have. For us, that meant travelling, starting a new business and moving to a different city. We also faced the fact that we might never have a child and we wanted to make sure we were still living our lives with purpose. I guess it was coming to the realisation that even without a baby, we were a family and we had to protect our relationship.

12 months after my miscarriage, I was shocked to find out I was pregnant with no assisted methods and were blessed that the pregnancy was a safe one and that our little son arrived 9 months later. We learnt a lot on our journey over the last few years. We learnt to be patient, to have faith and to understand what it is to not have control. I still can’t believe we have a son and I often get overwhelmed when I look at him. He is truly a gift and was worth every effort.

A hope and a future – Anil’s Story
We’ve been married now for 30 years and have no children. Initially we couldn’t believe it, we both love children so much. It was a shock to us and to our families when we discovered that we could not have children. We went through the whole gamut of treatments allopathy, homeopathy, etc; to figure out why we could not conceive. When we were told it was not possible to have children, the options we were offered were outside of us or one of us.

It would not be our child completely. That’s when we said no! God has put us together and to just be a womb or use a donor was a big no. Either we have child of which I am the father and she is the mother or we adopt. My mother was very disappointed. She went to different people to ask for prayers on the issue. Some people even predicted to her that we would have a son within a certain year and she rested a lot of hope on that – only to be all the more disappointed.

Her desire made her very open to suggestions about things we could do such as going to different places to pray, etc. We always felt that there was no need to specially go to any place to pray when we could directly always pray to God. Our siblings have been so supportive however. When my niece was very young– one of her friends asked my wife “aunty where are your kids?” immediately she (about 4 yrs old) responded that “we are all her kids”.

I was so touched. We ourselves were very open about our situation – when people came to know we could not have children some said, ‘Oh, we’re sorry’, we’ve always responded, ‘don’t be – we are not.’ Perhaps, this openness made it easier for them to feel more secure, open and natural with us. We kept the medical issues within our closest family only. We did not want to discuss medical issues openly; consciously or otherwise, people might make out one of us as being at fault.

Initially, I was very pained but God gave me a very clear answer through the Bible. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you not to harm you; plans with a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). He did not tell me that He would give me a child but he said he knew what he was doing with me and my life. That was good enough. Then came a lot of peace in my life. I always had the firm faith that God knows what he’s doing with us, our lives.

One regret that we have is that at that time we did not give the option of ‘adoption’ enough value. To think that we could have adopted and we might have been able to give two children a life – now it is too late – our health will not permit it. I do wish somebody had pushed us into that or made us understand adoption better. We believe it was not in God’s plan for us to have children. We grew in our faith through this experience.

The pain and our response to it brought us closer to God and to each other. We consciously got involved with children and have been involved in our Church with children and youth ministry. Today, when we look around, in every continent in the world we have some young person in whose life we have played a part. Sometimes we are pleasantly shocked when we get a call from someone just to say “I thought of you and what you did for me”. That was God’s way of using us.

These three stories, each with a different outcome or experience, give us deep insight into the emotions and struggles that couples who have difficulty conceiving go through. If you are in the same situation you probably can identify and those who are not, get a view of the personal pain that is not usually openly talked about. Sonia is still struggling through the whole process and learning to deal with the challenges, Leena chose to focus on living life to the fullest not focussing on what she didn’t have and Anil decided that he and his wife were enough to be a family.

There is no right or wrong way of dealing with it. Some choose to go in for artificial reproductive techniques, some choose not to while others choose to adopt. No matter which direction they chose to go, all three of them interestingly seem to have come to the same understanding. That they cannot control what happens in their lives and all they can do is accept that God has a plan for them. Their submission to that and an understanding of how God wants to use them gave them peace and strength.

That is not to say that feeling depressed and defeated is wrong. These are natural reactions to these situations. Not getting pregnant when you really want to can cause depression, anxiety and grief. While the ride can be an emotionally difficult one, there are some ways to make it a little easier. If you are going through the grief of being unable to conceive, don’t ignore your emotions or avoid dealing with them.

The feelings of grief, despair, envy and failure are real, even if you’re grieving for a baby you’ve never conceived. No matter how alone you feel, you really aren’t. Seek out people going through the same struggles. Just talking about it and knowing that you are not the only one going through this will help. Make wise decisions in pregnancy planning. Advances of science have made it possible for infertile couples to become pregnant.

Weigh your religious and moral considerations before you make a decision. Adoption is also a wonderful option that is available to fulfil your longing to be a parent and to give a child a home. No matter what choice you make, God is in control. He may say wait, may say yes or may say no – we don’t always understand the reasons. Accept the reality of the pain and sorrow but remember that there is redemption and relief at the end.

His purposes and our purposes are not always the same but He will not allow you to go through more than you can bear. Accepting God’s sovereignty in our lives is not easy but is paramount in living the life that He has laid out for us.

“Faith is not simply a patience that passively suffers until the storm is past. Rather, it is a spirit that bears things – with resignations, yes, but above all, with blazing, serene hope.”
– Corazon Aquino President (1986-92) of the Philippines